Before each round of chemo you check in with your oncologist. As part of that meeting, you have your blood work done – something called a Complete Blood Count (CBC).
In your blood, they are checking for two critical markers – your White Blood Cell count and your Neutrophil count. It’s your neutrophils that are the key infection fighting components – that count has to be at a minimum of 1.5 before they can give you your next chemo round. (There are other factors that come into the decision, and the 1.5 could be lower, but the general rule is 1.5). The range for ‘normal’ is from 2 to 8. Pre-chemo round 1 my neutrophil count was 5.1. Pre-chemo round 2 it had dropped to 3.8. And my blood work pre-chemo round 3 – still at 3.8. My immune system rocks! It’s keeping my neutrophil and my white blood cell levels in the range of a person not going through chemo.
They also want to make sure your kidneys and liver are working well, so a chemistry report is done on something called a GFR (how fast your kidneys can excrete urine, essentially), and your creatinine. Thanks to all the water I drink during the seven days after chemo infusions, my GFR rate increased from 98 to 100. Woo hoo. And my creatinine level dropped – another good sign my liver and kidneys are working just like a non-chemo person’s would.
Here’s my nutrition regime, recommended by a registered naturopath nutritionist.
- the day before chemo I have an organic juice with Turmeric in it. I like Glory Juice’s Number 6 – orange, pinapple, lemon and turmeric.
- for a couple of days after chemo, I have organic bone broth-based soup. Home on the Range (on Broadway at Kingsway) has wonderful bone broth (I like the chicken one).
- starting the day of chemo, I drink lots of water. At least 3 litres a day. The way chemo gets out of your body is through pee and poo. Water helps keep all of that moving quickly.
- throughout the three weeks in between chemo sessions, I have a few more turmeric juices. Not every day, but at least once a week.
- as soon as I feel up to it – generally by day 4 after chemo – I hit the gym again and do my usual exercise routine. This includes body sculpt classes, boot camp, spin and yoga, as well as a good amount of walking. Exercise really helps with excreting the chemo residue, and it’s a big boost to my psyche.
These are the things that worked for me. I’m grateful to the nutritionist who suggested the turmeric and bone broth. I’m a vegetarian, so drinking bone broth was a shift for me. But once I read about the nutritional benefits that come with it – and saw how much it would help rebuild my immune system – I figured a couple of months’ worth of bone broth was worth it.